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Srdjan Kamenko


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When it comes to vaccine intervention for disease control, should personal liberty go before the benefit to society?

This question is extremely important when one considers current news on the Human Papillomavirus vaccine. The main vaccine, Gardasil, has been widely used on women ages 9-26 since its introduction in 2006. The vaccine first made waves in 2007 when Texas governor Rick Perry issued an executive order to mandate the vaccine for all young women in Texas. Even though it was met with much opposition and ultimately failed, the question still remained: should we have a mandatory HPV vaccine for all women? The two sides of the argument clash, each bringing significant evidence to bear on the issue. Mathematical models indicate that with a vaccine as effective as this one (about 100%), mandating the vaccine will stamp out the virus types targeted by the vaccine. HPV is the most common STI with 45% of college age women currently infected. Freeing society of such a dangerous virus, the number one cause of cervical cancer, is a highlight of the pro-mandate argument. The opposition suggests that personal liberty is at stake, and that parents should have the choice to vaccinate their children if they believe the vaccine is worth it for them. What do you think? Is it reasonable to limit personal liberty for the good of the community in the face of a spreading killer virus?


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    Mar 7 2012: If the disease can be avoided by lifestyle adjustments (malaria, jungle fever, aids, std's, etc) mandatory vaccination is not justifiable. If the disease is a threat to society and cannot be avoided by any means other than vaccination (mumps, measles, polio, etc.) then personal liberty must be set aside in favor of the greater good of society. For bad germs and viruses-- vaccinate. For bad choices--not a social/legal/government issue.
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      Mar 7 2012: For this reasoning to be true, we would have to agree that HPV can be avoided by lifestyle adjustments. If the lifestyle adjustment was abstinence, I would agree, HPV could be avoided and we should not vaccinate. However, people will not stop having sex. As my colleague Kevin pointed out in another comment: abstinence education is ineffective at changing sexual behaviors. Source:

      HPV can take months or years to show up on a cervical screen, men can't be tested, it can be passed through oral intercourse, and condoms don't fully protect, thus having sex at all exposes you to the risk of contracting the virus. With a virus as prevalent as this one (20 million in the US, 45% of college aged women) the chances that someone will contract it at some point in their sexual career is very high.

      Therefore, I believe HPV is a threat to society as long as that society continues to have any kind of sex.
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        Mar 8 2012: If it is then vaccination should be mandatory. IF IT IS!
      • Mar 8 2012: "I believe HPV is a threat to society as long as that society continues to have any kind of sex."

        But there is a substantial, and I mean SUBSTANTIAL, amount of people who actually choose not to have sex until they are married, at which point both husband and wife are losing their virginity for the first time. Quite often, they have not engaged in any other non coital sexual activity that could have resulted in the contraction of HPV either. As long as they are monogamous, HPV is not a threat to them. If there is any potential side effect whatsoever with this vaccine, how can we justify administering it to them? It's all risk, no reward for those individuals.

        And again, there is enough people who make this lifestyle choice, which makes this a very relevant concern. For example, I wonder what the occurrence of HPV is at a school like BYU, which has an honor code that calls for its students to be abstinent.
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          Mar 8 2012: I am actually curious to see the statistic of what % of our population (either in U.S. or just in college) are abstinent until marriage. I disagree that the value would be substantial. If you would like to continue using that word, back it up with evidence. You are right that there is risk in taking the vaccine because we don't have any really long term data given that the vaccine is so new, but it's not ALL risk and no reward. The reward is preventing such a prominent cause of cervical cancer, various other cancers, and genital warts. I also wonder what the occurrence of HPV is at BYU, but BYU does not accurately reflect the rest of the nation. Lets talk about this more in class!
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          Mar 8 2012: A study conducted in 2002 showed that around 95% of people had engaged in premarital sex.

          Source: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2006-12-19-premarital-sex_x.htm

          You may say that this means that 5% of the population would not be benefited by the vaccine. However, their partner would have had to been abstinent as well. Just as a thought experiment, if mating is not assortative, then the chance of two people losing their virginity after marriage would be 0.05 x 0.05 = 0.0025 or .25%. So, hypothetically only a quarter of 1% of the population would be in this category. Of course, mating is probably assortative, with virgins more likely marrying virgins, but it is something to think about.

          Also, let's not forget about the high divorce rate in the United States. Even if you remained abstinent until marriage, and so did your life partner, you may still divorce and remarry. In addition, even life-long married couples do occasionally cheat on their spouses.

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